We are familiar with great gatherings in which a leader addresses a large audience. Often those who have been chosen by him to help him in his mission will be placed near him in prominent positions. The audience will then hear an address from the leader and as they listen to him they will also observe his chosen helpers standing or sitting near to him. Something similar, but in reality far more important in its significance, took place on the occasion when Jesus selected his apostles. He was there as the Leader, the apostles were there as his agents, and the crowd were there listening to him as he outlined various features of his kingdom.
Luke informs us that Jesus spent the night in prayer before he publicly identified those who would be apostles. Perhaps we are surprised to see references to prayer in the life of Jesus. After all, he is divine, so why does he need to pray?
One answer to that question is that he has also a human nature. He became this at his incarnation when he was conceived in the womb of Mary. When he was a child he would have been taught to pray, perhaps by his mother. As he grew older, he would have learned to pray in a different way. Yet we can say several things about his praying.
First, he was always delighted to pray. With him, praying to God was never a chore. Second, he would have been diligent in his praying. It would have been a daily practice for him to set aside time for prayer, and he always found time to pray. Third, his prayers would have been pure in that there would be no defects in them. He never included a wrong expression in his prayers and he never had to include confession of sin in his prayers. Fourth, his prayers were full of feeling – he would have put his whole heart into them. Often in his recorded prayers, he uses an adjective in front of the word ‘Father’, or he uses the little word ‘O’ as in ‘O Father’.
Fifth, his prayers would have been expressions of love to God and man since those prayers were part of his obedience to God’s law expressed in the Ten Commandments. Sixth, he was always heard when he prayed, which was what he said when he prayed at the tomb of Lazarus. Seventh, he prayed for his disciples, and for some of them personally, as he did for Peter on the night he denied the Saviour. Eighth, he loved to pray in solitude (Luke 5:16). Ninth, it looks as if he prayed audibly, because on one occasion, after he had prayed, his disciples asked him to teach them to pray (Luke 11:1). Tenth, he used verses from the Psalms in some of his recorded prayers on the cross.
Yet we also have to remember that he prayed in an official capacity as the Mediator. His role as Mediator when he was here on earth included him making preparations for the kingdom that he would set up after his death, resurrection and ascension. And it is obvious that the occasion described here was connected to that kingdom, because the apostles would have a large role to fulfil within it.
We can see something of the importance with which Jesus regarded this occasion by the fact that he preceded it with a night of prayer. It is likely that he spent many nights in prayer, but this is the only occasion in the Gospels where we are told that he spent an entire night in prayer. We can assume that his prayers were connected to the time he would spend with them before he died and also how they would serve him in the years after he had returned to heaven. But they would know that he had prayed for them before he selected them.